I mentioned in my last post that we had decided at the last minute to send Ana to the local Catholic School. After planning out a homeschool year that included her. And starting that homeschool year.
What will follow is why, and also some pictures of the skirt I had to dig out of the storage closet at the school because her size skirt was on back order and I needed something for her in the meantime. Actually this is not a skirt, it WAS a jumper, for a little girl who wears a child's size 12. My daughter is nearly 13 and wears a women's size 8-10...so kinda different :)
(after removing the jumper part....lots of seam ripping!)
So basically on the first week of August we started homeschooling for the year. The first day started well. Breakfast was made ahead of time (I made muffins the night before) and everything was laid out nice. I planned a light academic day, mostly just going through the new schedule and procedures and introducing each curriculum. We took first day of school pictures. It was fun! Ana was excited and totally on board.
(so then I had to sort out how to add several inches to the waistband without making it look too odd since shirts need to be tucked in at school...no hiding the waistband behind a shirt edge!)
As the first few weeks of school wore on each assignment became a battle. Every bad day from last year (and last year had mostly good days to be sure but there were some bad ones too) came rushing back full force. There was stomping, and yelling, and crying, and angry words, and some of them were not just from the tween. Ahem.
(Aha, I spotted where I can add in more width! The seam near where the zipper is attached! This is when I realized the beauty of pleated skirts...let out just 2 pleats and you've got yourself 8 extra inches. Like magic!)
See, every subject was TOO HARD. And WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME TO DO THIS. And I DON'T GET IT. And WELL, I CAN'T KNOW THE ANSWER IF YOU WON'T TELL ME. First grade religion...too hard. Calendar notebook made for early elementary...too hard. Literature questions from Memoria Press' First Grade Read-Aloud Program...too hard. Pre-test for vocabulary....too hard. I DON'T KNOW WHAT 'STRONG' MEANS. I DON'T KNOW WHAT 'PRETEND' MEANS. NOPE, I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF THOSE WORDS BEFORE. EVER.
It was the vocabulary test that broke this camel's back. That's when cool, collected, super-understanding-but-firm-mommy mode shut down. That's when I sent her to her room and did some stomping and yelling myself.
(MAGIC! I ripped enough seam to expose the two pleats and stretched them out straight....BAM! 8 inches just like that!)
(Then I re-pleated just a bit so it was closer to 5 inches.)
And I realized some things. First, I realized that I could keep homeschooling Ana and I'm sure we'd sort something out. I'm sure we'd hit our stride eventually and she'd learn something and it'd be fine. I had the best curriculum. I know the curriculum I chose is at her level (despite her very tween-ish complaints) and I know that it was quality curriculum. But the second thing I realized made that not matter. I realized that if Ana learned nothing, absolutely nothing more, but knew that her parents loved her and thought the world of her and supported her no matter what then I could die and face God with that knowledge. But if Ana learned all the things and went to college and did all the things but felt her parents didn't think she was bright or neat or the best kid around then I just couldn't face God with that. That wouldn't be good enough.
(Then I looked to the leftover jumper fabric to see if I could make the extra tab I'd need to add to the waistband. There was plenty of fabric thankfully)
After ranting and taking some time to clear my head Kyle and I talked and talked and talked. Then we started calling Catholic Schools. The local public school was out. They had done horribly by Ana last year, refusing to even provide her with a reading specialist when she was a 12 year old reading at a 1st grade level, and arguing that she no longer needed speech therapy when her vocabulary was "up" to age 6 equivalent from age 4 two years prior....and again she's 12. Not to mention the culture at the school, where all the 10 year olds were dating and had cell phones but almost none had married parents or clothes that fit. The Catholic Schools were our only option for this year really. Otherwise we'd have to wait and hope to move closer to Pittsburgh later where there's a fantastic school for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
(I made a roughly 6" x 3" rectangle)
Luckily for us, after a bit of calling and weighing pros and cons we met with a school nearby and they were good. Very good actually. They didn't blink at Ana's needs and they didn't dismiss them either, they were sweet and friendly and they got right to sorting out a plan to get her as many services as possible. It's a decent sized school with 1-2 classrooms per grade, they have art and music weekly, mass every Friday, and she'll get speech therapy weekly in addition to 3x a week with a reading specialist and 1x a week with a math specialist. Her regular math class has just 13 kids in it, which is pretty awesome on its own.
(I pressed the seams in and then in half to form the additional waistband part)
We were nervous but we enrolled her. And so far? It's been wonderful! Her teachers are so nice and helpful, the administration know her and watch out for her, and she's well cared for and supported there. Her music teacher wrote her the sweetest personal note the second day, praising her courage in trying out for choir on her very first day :) When she was upset about not understanding the writing process they were learning in English her teacher offered to tutor her before school next week until she gets it. We were astounded. Nobody else has ever taken such an interest in her truly understanding anything at school before.
(See, here's the extra waistband all folded and ready to go with a bit of interfacing in the middle)
Ana loves her new school. She loves that her uniform means she can wear a skirt every single day. She's a bit disappointed about not being able to wear her chunky necklaces or big pink hair bows (but I'm secretly happy about that, haha!) And, being Ana, she already has four new friends already!
(I sewed the new flap onto the edge of the skirt all the way to the zipper. It fit perfectly and I overlapped the old and new waistband edges and did a quick stitch so it will stay together. Later when Ana got home I added a button to the edge)
It was weird at first to be home without her. Just me and the little kids again. It felt kind of sad, but as she comes home happy each day and I see how well she's cared about at school I'm feeling better about it. Kids like Ana, with her types of disabilities, are often described as being easy to love, hard to parent. And that's exactly how she is. Easy to love, but sometimes so hard to parent. It's nice to let someone else step in and help with that during the day; to get a break and be fresh and at my best when she gets home.
Mostly, it's nice to take off the teacher hat and just be her mom. She needs a mom and dad more than anything. Anyone reasonably qualified can teach her but as far as parents go we're all she's got.
(I let down the hem and hemmed it back up as tightly as I could so it would be long enough and it was all finished and it fit perfectly!)
At home I've been upping Tobias' work. He's in First Grade this year and it's time for some real writing and such. Plus I noticed his grammar knowledge is a bit lacking so I got a good grammar curriculum (Voyages in English) and we're working through that. He's happy and we're done with homeschool before noon every day. I'm also taking time out each day to work on teaching Peter more phonemic awareness (he has none which is a possible sign of dyslexia) and just his basic letter and number skills. Tahlia will also be getting some one-on-one time with me to work on her speech since she barely passed the early intervention assessment this week. Apparently her receptive language is just fine, average, but her expressive language is 20 on a scale where 100 is average. She has 7 words at 21 months, so definitely a bit behind there.
(I even made two matching hair bows for her uniform. Only the one on the right is actually allowed unfortunately but at least she has that one since big bows are a big part of our typical hairstyles! What would I do with her beautiful curly hair without a well-placed bow to cover those elaborate braids I do?)
We're getting into the new rhythm and I don't expect it to be perfect but so far it's been everything we hoped for. Ana is being educated by great teachers, I'm getting to focus on being her mom (and talking her through the tween friend drama!), and I get more time during the day to focus on the little ones a bit. Everyone wins.